Monday, August 27, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Clergy and Christian Revival

Atheist warning: Another religious post.

One of the things that impressed me most about the U.S. founding fathers is their recognition that good laws cannot constrain bad men. They understood that it did not matter what type of managerial structure you put in place, if the the people you were managing were corrupt the organisation was going to fail. Virtue, not better management, is the foundation of a stable and prosperous polity.

Living a virtuous life comes with the presupposition of knowing what virtue is. Hence the importance of philosophy, faith, ethics, etc.  These establish the norms of virtue and until modern times it was taken for granted that foundational stone of virtue in the West was religion and it was only relatively recently that men thought a system of ethics could be built on pure rationality alone.

Now, the point of this post is not to debate the respective merits of various ethical systems but simply to point out that ethical systems are foundational basis of any kind of "stable" society. In other words, values matter. In fact, values come before management. As the the old NRx adage goes, politics is downstream from culture,  and the current problems of the West should not be seen as a problem primarily of poor management, rather it needs to be recognised as a problem of crappy people. Nietzsche understood this very well.

Therefore the most important institutions in a society are its cultural institutions, and here I don't mean art galleries and libraries, but the whole system of value generation and management that concerns itself with the society's beliefs. Don't get me wrong, management matters, but management is primarily concerned with achieving desired goals and ideals and therefore, in a sense, management is subordinate to the culture.

It is this blog's contention that  what primarily ails the West is the collapse of the Christian value system and empozzment by both the modern secular project, a radical branch of the Enlightenment and the decay in quality of Christian thought. Secular has attacked Christianity from the outside but theological developments within Christianity have undermined it from within.

Therefore any restoration of the West has to come about with a restoration of the Christian value system first. Failing this and system is unable to reboot. However, Christianity itself has serious problems which seems to make this unlikely. That is why the task of fundamental importance for the West is the reformation of Christianity. Everything else is second order.

It is beyond the intention of this post to go into a through analysis as to why Christianity failed but it's important to briefly dwell on this subject. For years, the standard trope from the "orthodox" factions of Western Christianity laid the blame at  the feet of the laity, who they asserted, had been disobedient, and all would be right if they subordinated themselves to authority and doubled down. There is probably an element of truth in this position however, consistent loss, over a long period of time points to systemic error in operations and what this means is that there is a serious problem with command.

Unfortunately, one of the "faults' to which Catholicism is particularly prone to is the "preferential option for the clergy" which in essence means that when things go wrong the clergy looks exclusively among the laity for error. This Clericalism in the Church isn't just a problem about church power, but a mindset affects the Church's role in the world and how it responds to it. It assumes that when things don't go the way as the clergy expects it should, it is the "world" and not themselves which are at fault. It facilitates a sort of blindness when it comes to clerical self examination  and conditions them to look for faults everywhere else but themselves. From a systems analysis point of view it means that problems within command system don't get fixed and continue to perpetuate. Mistakes keep being made.

Things seem to have however come to a head with this current sexual abuse crisis--some sense of the awareness of the magnitude of the evil seems to be beginning to be grasped even by the clergy--however this should not blind us to the fact that corruption is not just sexual in nature, and the leadership of the church has been "inert" to many issues which verge on the morally negligent.  The Vatican finances have been a mess for decades. Theft, fraud and money laundering may not inspire in us the disgust that pedophilia does but they're moral evils none the less.  Idiot trads, blaming everything on V2, need to be reminded that prior to it many Catholic Priests were sympathetic to Vichy and the Nazi regime. Garrigou-Lagrange, one of the foremost Thomists of his time and the supervisor for JPII doctoral thesis, felt that the support of Charles De Gaulle (a pious Catholic) was a mortal sin, while the support of Vichy was morally upright. Dwell on that for a while.

Now, bad priests are always going to be a problem in the Church and that's not really the issue, the real issue is how the Church as an institution handles them and by any objective measure the handling has been a mess. Apart from what appears to be a lavender mafia within the hierarchy, many of the senior clergy, even when not complicit, seems to be suffering from a spiritual HIV which makes them incapable of recognising and  dealing with evil appropriately. The average contracepting, spiritually lax, morally dubious Catholic had a better grasp on the moral evil of pedophilia than many theologically trained bishops. Reflect on this for a moment and it illustrates just how deep the problem is. With Shepherds like these......

What the sexual abuse saga has forced is the recognition that the hierarchy has some serious systemic problems, the problem for Catholicism is, how do you fix up a system where the clergy have gone bad and even the virtuous laity have no rights. The answer is you can't while still operating in the system. For a reboot to occur some sort of "disruption to the usual process" is going to be necessary. And I do think we're headed for a period of disruption.

As I see it, the rechristianisation of the West is a precondition of any Western revival but before this can happen Christianity has to sort its problems out. For better or worse this is a problem with Catholicism rather than Christianity in general. I do not feel that Orthodoxy is up to the task and "sound"  Protestantism is a spent force. Therefore the action will be in Catholicism.

As I see it the following will need to occur:

1) A replacement of the current ecclesiastics, i.e. the officer corps. I imagine that what will happen here is that the Christian laity will through a sense of sensus fidelium put their weight behind certain bishops over others, purging the malevolent ones. It's gonna get sectarian. The Church will split into three factions; the trads, the lefties and the doctrinally sound.

2) Theological developments will have to occur which enable Christianity to engage modernism effectively. (Modernism, except in the case of a divinely willed apocalypse, is not going away) Some of the required development will come from the legacy of Protestantism, work ethic, acting like the elect, less reliance on the confessional, less mystical and more pragmatic Christianity, etc. A new "Theology of the Body" will be developed but I feel it will only have tenuous links with the work of JPII. These developments will most probably arise in the unexpected fringes and perhaps from the laity as well.

Interesting times lay ahead.

When I started writing this post the latest allegations against Francis (which I believe are false*) were not yet made. Things are moving much faster than I expected.

*Some of the revelations reported by Rod Dreher indicated that the homosexual subculture in the church exists in both liberal and apparent ultraorthodox variants. I feel that that this is a good cop/bad cop routine being played on Francis. Being Pope is a bit like being president, your information is given to you by your subordinates and so you are dependent on them. It became apparent during the recent Chilean controversy that Chilean bishops had lied to him, he finding out the truth after sending his own investigators to ferret the truth.  A lot of Trads don't like Francis, and are quite prepared to believe anything negative about him, (conformation bias) and while I'm not a big fan of his, I do think he is being set up.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Sheep are Bleating

Atheist warning: This is another religious post.
Woe to the pastors, that destroy and tear the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord the God of Israel to the pastors that feed my people: You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold I will visit upon you for the evil of your doings, saith the Lord. And I will gather together the remnant of my flock, out of all the lands into which I have cast them out: and I will make them return to their own fields, and they shall increase and be multiplied. And I will set up pastors over them, and they shall feed them: they shall fear no more, and they shall not be dismayed: and none shall be wanting of their number, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 23
Unlike many Dissident Right bloggers who tend to gloss over the subject of religion and hope for restoration of the West through better management structures™, this blog believes that any restoration of the West is going to have to draw upon the religious culture and practice which were its foundations. SovCorp doesn't really work if its constituent members are self-interested spivs.

Neitzsche saw that the death of Christianity created a moral vacuum which needed to be filled and he knew that the process was going to entail an astronomical body count. Where he got it wrong was in the assumption that there was another workable solution besides Christianity. Viktor Orban isn't that stupid. He has just delivered an amazing speech which sees Christianity as the central platform of European restoration.
Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal. Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal. And we can specifically say this in connection with a few important issues – say, three great issues. Liberal democracy is in favour of multiculturalism, while Christian democracy gives priority to Christian culture; this is an illiberal concept. Liberal democracy is pro-immigration, while Christian democracy is anti-immigration; this is again a genuinely illiberal concept. And liberal democracy sides with adaptable family models, while Christian democracy rests on the foundations of the Christian family model; once more, this is an illiberal concept.
Now, the important thing to note here is that muscular Christianity is being spread by the laity talking, not the clergy.  In Italy and Bavaria "populist" movements are pushing for Crucifixes to be placed in public buildings, much to the dismay of some of the clergy. (I understand the clergy's argument but I think in this instance it's poorly thought out.) Over at Rod Dreher's blog the vitriol directed toward the indifferent and ineffectual bishops with regard to sexual abuse saga verges on a lynch mob mentality. Samuel Gregg, one of the saner Trads out there has openly pilloried the idea of bishops investigating themselves.

The flock are not happy and are beginning to take things into their own hands. The sheep are bleating.

Lynch mobs are never a good thing since they're just as likely to punish the innocent as they are the guilty,  but the fault with the mob lays in its lack of respect for due process not in it's sentiment for justice. That's the thing about mobs, while devoid of reason they very much express human sentiment: it's incarnated human nature without any cerebral refinement. The mob, in a sense, is the reflection of the average man, and its nature is human nature incarnate

When you add a Christian dimension to the mob you get a Christian laity. In other words, as Catholic ecclesiology asserts, the nature of the mob is influenced by the Holy Spirit. What this means is that laity, as a group, is a reservoir of Christian goodness. So when when the Christian mob bleats there's a good chance that it's God doing the talking. And by Christian, what it means is Christian enough to be pleasing to God, not simply calling oneself Christian.

One of the problems with the strict hierarchical model by the Church, as advocated by the Trads, is that this "reservoir of goodness" conception of the laity is effectively nullified. The laity are there for the teaching, not for the instructing, since the clergy are implicitly inerrant. What this also means is that in the  real world practice the clergy does not have to answer or give an accounting to the it. Masters don't ever have to answer to their servants, even if the master is wrong. Rank overrides truth.

What the Trads seem unable to grasp is that the "structure" is just as much of a problem as the malign elements that infest it. (It also goes a long way to explaining the culture which failed to deal adequately with the sex abuse scandal) Monarchical absolutism is a good thing........except when it's wrong. The question is how to tell when it's wrong.

Catholic ecclesiology solved this problem, in theory at least, by insisting that proof of the soundness of any Papal teaching was in it's acceptance by the laity. It needed to be "received" in order to be legitimate. It also implied that the laity had a capacity to vet the quality of the teaching. It was a sort of system of checks and balance and the bleating of the sheep was meant to be a sign that somethings wrong. Of course, the Trads never took this concept seriously and now it has come back to bite them.

Humanae Vitae, as I see it, was the first instance in modern times where the laity pushed back against the clergy. If there is any catholic teaching that has not been received by the laity it is this one. Trad Catholic theologians got past this problem by arguing that anyone who didn't do what the Pope says wasn't really a faithful catholic and therefore their opinion didn't matter.

See how it works.

But instead of Humanae Vitae, let's substitute Francis's new take on the Death Penalty, which a lot of Trads, (and myself) are up in arms about.  If you take a Trad approach to the matter, then the Trads who disagree with the Pope on this issue are just like the "liberals" who oppose Humanae Vitae: they're not real Catholics and need to be bought to heel by the application of Papal Authority. The "authoritarian mentality" advocated by the Trads to delegitimise dissent against HV works just as effectively to delegitimise their own dissent against a poorly performing clergy. When the rule is established that the lower down orders don't have the right to criticise those higher up then it really doesn't matter if the lower orders are conservative or liberal, they simply have to "shut up and row".
This is the situation which the "authoritarian mindset" has led us to.

Still, God works in mysterious ways and as I see it, the continual revelations of clerical impropriety  have reached a point where even the Trads are now beginning to question the legitimacy of the authoritarian model, in practice if not in theory. The sheep are bleating yet the shepherds are deaf; something is going to change.

As I see it, the end consequence of this period of religious crisis in Catholic Church will be the recognition of the legitimacy of the laity with the Church being a less "top down" and more collegiate organisation, with the laity playing a greater role.  Till this happens there's going to be a period of chaos until the clergy starts instituting meaningful reforms.. In the ensuing tumult a new Christianity will arise whose whose members will probably originate from Christianity's own Dissident Right purging both the  clergy of its diseased members and re-orientating the nature of Christianity.
And I will set up pastors over them, and they shall feed them: they shall fear no more, and they shall not be dismayed: and none shall be wanting of their number, saith the Lord.